Reel Critics: 'Intouchables' touches in deepest of ways

Two men from widely divergent backgrounds form a deep bond that changes them forever. One is a small-time thief from the projects; the other's a rich paraplegic.

Meet"The Intouchables,"a film that's very familiar yet told with such heart, humor and solid acting that you won't care. AlreadyFrance'sbiggest box office success, it is based on the real story of a aristocratic man (François Cluzet) who hires an inexperienced caretaker (Omar Sy) because he knows he won't be handled as an object of pity.

Both actors play off each other well, showing their impatience and frustration in a series of wonderfully edited vignettes. Driss (Sy) has an open exuberance that is contagious, and he learns the meaning of responsibility from Philippe (Cluzet) just as Philippe rediscovers pleasure in the smallest of things.

Sy's breakout performance earned him a well-deserved César Award,France'sown version of the Oscar.

There are similarities here to other buddy/opposites stereotypes found in "Scent of a Woman" or even "Trading Places." But the movie feels fresh in spite of the clichés and the glossing over of serious health issues.

"The Intouchables" embraces life without asking for our pity.


Snow White takes up Joan of Arc's mantle

The story might be based on a children's fairytale, but make no mistake:"Snow White and the Huntsman"is a serious motion picture. It has serious acting credentials, production values and cinematography. With a first-rate screenplay and dynamite special effects, you'll see wide audience appeal everywhere you look.

Charlize Theron is outstanding as the evil queen Ravenna. She oozes wicked intent at every turn. Kristen Stewart of"Twilight" fame plays the innocent Snow White with the right mix of beauty and courage. She morphs from a delicate princess to a Joan of Arc crusader without missing a beat.

Chris Hemsworth ("Thor") is the rugged hero who protects her from a frightening array of menacing threats. Together they march through deep, dark forests and enchanted fairy lands encountering constant danger. High-powered sword and sorcery scenes fill the screen, with a welcome touch of humor added.

Many cinematic elements from "Harry Potter," "Avatar" and"Braveheart" are set in motion, and are done very well. This is a first-rate sci-fi fantasy-adventure film that is sure to get several nominations at Oscar time.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

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